Print and Picture Collection
The Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia (PIX) is home to a variety of graphic materials including fine art prints, photographs, drawings, and artists’ books. The Philadelphiana Collection contains over 20,000 images of Philadelphia, both historical and modern. PIX also includes photographs and ephemera from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.
PLANNING YOUR RESEARCH VISIT:
The Print and Picture Collection is not scheduling onsite research appointments at this time. However, we are still monitoring email and phone calls to provide reference virtually. All questions or inquiries can be made via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org (preferred), or phone: (215) 686-5405 (there is a delay in returning voicemails). Please note: materials in the Collection are non-circulating.
REQUESTING HIGH-RESOLUTION IMAGES:
The Special Collections of PIX include:
The Philadelphiana Collection contains over 20,000 prints, drawings, scrapbooks, watercolors, and photographs which constitute a picture history of Philadelphia from its founding by William Penn to the present day. Some images have been scanned and can be found in the Historical Images of Philadelphia digital collection. Of particular interest are images of Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs, and the Samuel Castner Scrapbooks. A subject list for our Philadelphiana collection can be found here: Philadelphiana Finding Aid.
Printmaking Methods and Fine Art Prints
A broad collection of prints and printmaking tools representing every form of printmaking method from the fifteenth century to present day. Includes early European master prints, Japanese woodblock prints, and works by renowned modern printmakers, with a special focus on Philadelphia artists. Artists represented include Dürer, Rembrandt, Benton Spruance, and Andy Warhol. A small number of our Fine Art Prints have been digitized, and can be viewed here and here.
Photographic Methods and Fine Art Photographs
A comprehensive collection of photographic methods, including daguerreotypes, albumen prints, stereoviews, tintypes, as well as photographic prints by both local and internationally-known photographers. Photographers represented include Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, David Graham, Ray Metzker, Eadweard Muybridge, and Aaron Siskind.
The WPA (Works Progress Administration, 1935-1943, renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) Collection contains about 1,400 prints, drawings and posters created by artists hired by the Federal Government to work in the Philadelphia Graphic Arts Workshop during the Great Depression. When the program ended in 1943, the General Services Administration divided the work of the WPA workshop in Philadelphia and gave them on long-term loan to the Free Library, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Among the artists represented are Sam Brown, Claude Clark, Mildred Elfman, Michael Gallagher, Hubert Mesibov, Raymond Steth, Dox Thrash, and Roswell Weidner. A portion of the WPA Collection has been digitized, and can be viewed here.
Book Arts Collection
The Print and Picture Collection has a growing collection of over 400 artists’ books. Artists' books are works of art that utilize the form of the book. The donation of 50 artists’ books by a collector, who then challenged the local book arts community to match her donation, has greatly enhanced the size and depth of the collection. Artists represented include Johanna Drucker, Susan King, Hedi Kyle, Joan Lyons, Caitlin Perkins, Maddy Rosenberg, Ed Ruscha, Patty Smith, and Susan Viguers. Find Artists’ Books in the online catalog. PIX also has many issues of the Journal of Artists' Books.
United States Centennial Exhibition Collection
The Print and Picture Collection has one of the largest collections of photographs documenting the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. These photographs and other material can be found in the library's Digital Collections. Additional material about the Centennial can be found throughout Parkway Central Library and is included in the 1876 Centennial Checklist of material.
John Frederick Lewis Portrait Collection
Portrait prints, photographs, and drawings of notable Europeans and Americans, organized by sitter. Donated by John Frederick Lewis in the 1920s, the collection was added to by the library over the years. Among these prints are numerous works of art by such artists as Van Dyck, Nanteuil, and Holbein. Highlights include a photograph of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt attending their son Elliott's wedding in Bryn Mawr in 1932, an engraving of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, and dozens of engraved portraits of Benjamin Franklin.
The Americana Collection is composed of over 8,000 prints, photographs and ephemera relating to American history. The collection includes a number of plates from Julius Bien’s chromolithographed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1858-1860. Other notable printmakers presented in this collection are J.T. Bowen, Thomas Doughty, John Hill, George Endicott, John Sartain and Currier & Ives. Additionally, this collection contains several hundred trade cards, political cartoons, items from political campaigns and Civil War prints.
The Jackson Collection of American Lithographs
The history of lithography may be studied in the Jackson Collection of American Lithographs that includes some 275 lithographs from the collection of Joseph Jackson, author of “The Encyclopedia of Philadelphia and other works of scholarly interest.” This collection includes the first lithograph printed in America by Bass Otis and published in the Analectic Magazine in July of 1819. The collection has been digitized and can be viewed here.
The Rosenthal Collection of Drawings by American Artists
The Rosenthal Collection was donated by artist Albert Rosenthal (1863-1939) in the 1920s. Containing over 800 drawings by artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the collection is made up of illustrations for magazines, and studies for paintings and larger works. Artists in the collection include Eastman Johnson, C. E. H. Bonwill, Louis M. Glackens, Edward H. Potthast, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Thomas Sully, John Trumbull and Benjamin West.
Drawings and Watercolors
In addition to the Rosenthal gift, the Print and Picture Collection has watercolors and drawings from a wide variety of artists, including Augustus Kollner, Violet Oakley, Aubrey Beardsley, Wyncie King, Joseph Pennell and Edith Emerson. PIX also has original drawings by stained glass aritsts Nicola D'Ascenzo, Lawrence Saint, and the Oesterle Glass Works.
Other Special Collections in the Print and Picture Collection
Other special collections include the Hampton L. Carson Collection of Napoleonic Prints, a Poster Collection, the Franklin Davenport Edmunds Collection, and the Political Cartoon Collection. Many collections have not been digitized, and some collections have only been digitized in part. Please email the Print and Picture Collection at email@example.com with questions about our collections.
Learn more about current and previous Free Library Exhibitions here.
Check out some highlights from Philadelphia: The Changing City in our Digital Collections: Philadelphia: The Changing City
The Art Department holds an extensive selection of files on artists, architects, designers and collectors, and the art & architecture of Philadelphia. These include article clippings, gallery announcements, artist statements, exhibition catalogs, and other ephemera related to artists and art subjects.
The Map Collection is a multidisciplinary collection of cartographic materials, housing over 130,000 current and historical maps. The collection covers every area of the world, with a focus on Philadelphia and adjacent regions.
The Education Philosophy and Religion Department maintains a historic collection of pamphlets about education, historic churches, libraries, and more.
The Social Science and History Department holds local history books and maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government.
The Newspapers & Microfilm Center is our region’s largest collection of newspapers from the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
The website Places in Time: Historical Documentation of Place in Greater Philadelphia has links to a rich variety of images, documents, maps, and views of Philadelphia and surrounding counties from throughout its history. Included are resources from the Free Library of Philadelphia.
The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers, compiled by Adam Levine, historical consultant of the Philadelphia Water Department, includes resources from the Free Library of Philadelphia's collections.
The Print and Picture Collection is part of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Special Collections division. Special Collections enhance the educational mission of the Free Library by assembling and making accessible historic materials, providing reliable and knowledgeable research services, and offering instructional programs that promote understanding of our shared cultural heritage. Click here to learn more about the Free Library's special collections.
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Support the Print and Picture Collection
We depend on financial support to add new acquisitions to the collection, mount exhibitions, and care for the collection. Monetary donations can be directed right to the Print and Picture Collection online or by sending a check payable to the "Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation" to: Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Thank you for your support!